Bakers are being urged to back a proposed Centre of Bakery Excellence in the UK, to tackle the skills crisis facing the industry. Details of the Centre will be thrashed out over the next five months, culminating in a summit meeting of industry stakeholders at the Baking Industry Exhibition on April 6 to 9 2008, at the Birmingham NEC.

The event, proposed by the Alliance for Bakery Students and Trainees (ABST), follows the cancellation of sector skills council Improve’s bakery training conference, due to take place this week. Paula Widdowson of Improve said it had been unable to secure a full cross-section of the baking industry to attend the conference.

ABST general secretary Matthew May said the new centre should act as a "lightning rod" for resolving skills training problems: "As an industry, we don’t speak as one voice. Different parts of the industry understand what they want and need, and this needs to be joined up."

Trade associations, colleges, bakery businesses and supermarkets will all be invited to give their views on the Centre. Further details will be announced over the coming weeks in British Baker.